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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

Home is where the heart is

You might think it’s a storyboard for a costume drama, or nothing more than an amateur artist’s dainty depiction of her children. But this supposedly naïve little picture belies what must have been on the artist’s mind when she made it.

Maria Brownrigg (née Blake) was a naval officer’s daughter. In Cape Town in 1830 she married Lieutenant Marcus Freeman Brownrigg, RN. Eldest child Marcus junior (seated at the piano) was born in 1835, and Maria produced four daughters and another son over the next ten years. They came to Sydney in 1852 and Brownrigg was appointed superintendent of the Australian Agricultural Company’s operations at Port Stephens. In 1856, however, he was dismissed for incompetence and travelled to Sydney to clear his name. Not that you’d know it from this portrait of agreeable, familial contentment created by Maria (her only known work), but the rest of the family – evicted from the superintendent’s official residence – spent anxious months at Yarra Cottage awaiting the outcome. Brownrigg must have succeeded, for his eventual departure from Port Stephens was ‘deeply regretted by the whole community, to whom he and his family endeared themselves by many acts of kindness and liberality’.

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The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance
The National Portrait Gallery building front entrance

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The National Portrait Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and recognises the continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and to Elders both past and present.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that this website contains images of deceased persons.

The National Portrait Gallery is an Australian Government Agency